(Excerpt from Assor,Soussana,Oyer,Dumas ICP Andros Island Final Report)
Sustainable certifications benchmark:
Certification is one of the most powerful and used tool to measure the sustainable aspect of eco-touristic experiences. In fact, certifications enable all type of organizations to deliver qualitative experiences to their consumers while enhancing environmental, economic, cultural, and social dimensions.
According to a study conducted by GreenHotelWorld.com (2016) in July 2015, only 6.2% of 130,000+ hotels worldwide have gained an eco-certification. The percentage of green certified hotels per continent is described as:
North America: 10.1%,
South America: 2.7%,
Thus, tourism-oriented organizations might wonder what the real benefits of eco- certifications are. Thanks to precise and defined indicators and processes, gaining a certification may help to:
- – Implement an efficient management of resources (human, economic, environmental) that are critical for the organization survival,
- – Reduce operating costs via sustainable practices or technologies,
- – Give external credibility that the organization’s actions in the path of sustainability are effective and efficient.
- – Increase revenues by targeting eco-conscious customers,
- – Establish and consolidate a sustainable positioning on the worldwide market.
- – Enjoy new promotional canals via the certifier organism own network. On the other hand, it is important to note that obtaining an eco-certification can be a challenging task that generates cost before generating profits. Hundreds of certifications are available worldwide and parameters such as price, reach, complexity, or process may vary from a certification to another. To different degrees, they virtually all address typical sustainability matters through set of criteria and baseline that are defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC): energy, water, and waste management, heritage conservation, biodiversity protection, local culture preservation and respect, maximization of social and economic benefits for the host population, and so on. It might be confusing for tourism organizations to select the most satisfying certification to fulfill their own needs and concerns. The choice of an eco-certification will depend on the goals followed by the organization. As we will see below, some certification are more focus on environmental protection, others have wide considerations of societal values and cultural heritage conservations; some others try to create a balance between those topics.
Worldwide great sustainable practices:
1) Using green renewable energy: the case of Faroe Island.
Issue(s) addressed: green energy supply.
Faroe Island, an archipelago in the North Atlantic Sea, has a very ambitious and challenging goal: becoming totally free of fossil fuel power by 2030 and to only use green electrical energy to fulfill its needs. By investing consequently in wind power, wind turbines, tide plants, batteries, pump systems, and to some extent, solar power stations, the islands aim is to completely cut imports of fossil fuels for energy consumption. By mixing different renewable energy sources to balance the grid, Faroe Islands plans to overcome the incidence of meteorological conditions on renewable energy production. Moreover, the government is also developing an important electric car plan which will (in the optimistic scenario) make irrelevant the use and importation of pollutant vehicles by 2030.
SEV, the Faroese electricity company that undertook this promising project in 2015, received the 2015 Nordic Council Nature and Environment Prize for this initiative. The results of this action are already effective: in 2015, the company recorded an electrical production record and in 2017, only two years after the beginning of the project, 51% of its electrical production was generated by green sources.
2) São Tomé and Príncipe Island: A war against plastic bottles.
Issue(s) addressed: pollution, water accessibility, education.
It is not a secret anymore; plastic is an environmental and public health disaster that critically pollutes and destroys lands and oceans, and leaves toxic micro plastics in drinking water and food.
In 2012, São Tomé and Príncipe Island has been declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO and since that announcement, the local government is working on the preservation of its natural environment and the access to drinking water. Since 2014, the Island is walking on the path of a zero-plastic future with aspiring goals: to become the first plastic-free island by 2020, to educate its population to environmental preservation, and to give access to public drinking water to its inhabitants.
The nation-wide project is involving the whole population of the island. A “No plastic campaign” was launched in towns and schools to educate children and adults to the preservation of natural environment and the danger of plastic. The government is also working on the development of a tax aimed to reduce plastic imports.
During punctual events, the whole population, and also transportation and recycling companies were engaged in collecting plastic bottles. Fifty plastic bottles collected can be exchanged for one reusable plastic-free stainless steel bottle to the benefits of the whole local population. The “Biosphere Bottle” can be refilled at various drinking water fountains, strategically installed throughout the island public space, and local public workers were trained to maintain the drinking water dispensers. Once the bottles collected, they were transported to facilities to be recycled or eco-disposed. From 2014 to 2016, more than six tons of plastic have been collected and processed.
3) New Zealand and its green national transportation plan.
Issue(s) addressed: transportation, pollution, tourism sights accessibility
Transportation policy, including air, marine, and ground options, is a critical matter for Destination Management Organization that should be developed in an efficient and cost effective way. It should also enhance the sustainable aspect of the destination, and facilitate the destination accessibility. Local public transportation network has to facilitate visitors’ journeys to and from tourist attractions, make it pleasant, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In this area, the New Zealand government gives a good example of a sustainable national transportation policy, by encouraging the use non- motorized vehicles such as cycling and walking. The local transport agency was looking for alternatives solutions for both tourists and residents and thus, has connected urban centers and tourist attractions by upgrading already existing infrastructures with designed cycle routes. Also, to make cycling more convenient for daily use, the government has developed bicycle- sharing programs.
According to the New Zealand Transport Agency, investing in cycling had several benefits for the country: towns and cities are more enjoyable (e.g. aesthetic, less noisy), safer, more accessible and less polluted, local councils have less costs, and people using bikes on a daily basis are healthier. Investing in biking infrastructures is also good for economically disadvantaged people, and people who do not drive. Tourists in New Zealand themselves found biking more convenient and recreational than traditional public transportation.
4) Sandals Resorts International Group’s Farmers Program
Issue(s) addressed: linkages, local communities benefits
The Sandals Group is a large international resort chain and an important employer in the Caribbean that operates in Jamaica, the Bahamas, and St. Lucia and Antigua. Its Farmers Program is a good example of how different sectors, and people working in them, can benefit from a sustainably managed tourism phenomenon and from responsible private companies. Deeply linked to several industries, tourism can have a snowball effect that directly or
indirectly ameliorate local communities’ life through job creation and improvement, education, income increase, or infrastructural development.
In the case of Jamaica, the Sandals Resorts International Group developed a strong partnership with local farmers, via the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, since 1996. Before that, Sandals Groups used to purchase food outside of the country for several reasons such as mediocre quality standards, poor reliability, low volume of production, and lack of communication between the group and local suppliers.
With the development of the Farmers Program, the international resort group wanted to source its food locally, and started to created strong relationship between its resorts and local food producers that led to several benefits for both sides. With the group assistance (through education, interest-free investment, and improved communication and information sharing), local farmers had the opportunity to increase the quality and the production volume of their product, improve their incomes, upgrade their production methods and techniques, have a more reliable job with strong demand, and attend workshops to ameliorate their marketing procedures. On the other hand, the group could reduce its sourcing costs, increase the quality of its product, gain local recognition, and improve its reputation and brand awareness.
5) Tourism eLearning in Switzerland
Issue(s) addressed: education, local population empowerment.
The national tourism board of Switzerland launched in April 2017 the Switzerland Travel Academy: an eLearning platform, consisting of core and specialization modules, that provides certifications to become a Switzerland Travel Expert. Totally online and multi- screen, the platform is open to everyone, from everywhere. The certification process is simple and free: once they have signed in, users have full access to a range of online courses in which they learn about the country geography, culture, attractions, transportation offers, itineraries, events, and so on. Once they feel comfortable, users can pass the final exam to become a certificated Switzerland
Travel Expert until December of the following year. They can also renew their certificate and stay informed through new and updated modules.
The modules make an important use of images, videos and quizzes, and give access to specialized topics such as family holidays, luxury, leisure, or nature-based tourism. Another important part of the platform is the ability it gives users to discuss with the national tourism board and other travel professionals on the forum.
Interactive, connected, free, professionalizing, the Switzerland Travel Academy is a very interesting case of how ICTs can empower local people and deepen education accessibility. People who cannot attend classes for diverse reasons (economical, geographical, socio-demographical or other) or people who want to change career, have the opportunity to become travel experts and actively participate in the positive tourism development of their region.
On April 25th 2018, 437 professionals became certified Switzerland travel experts in the comfort of their home and are now designing the journey of their international clients.
6) Building a Turtle Sanctuary in Dominican Republic.
Issue(s) addressed: marine biodiversity, tourists education
The story of the Turtle Sanctuary localized in Mano Juan Island (Dominican Republic) is about a turtle hunter who became their hero. Pelagio Paulino aka Negro has been a fisherman all his live and used to hunt turtles for their eggs that were believed to be a remedy erectile dysfunction. A decade ago, he built the biggest nesting area for marine turtles in Dominican Republic and, with the help of Yolanda Leon, scientist, he works hard to preserve this critically endangered species, and teach locals and visitors about the necessity of preserving the marine biodiversity.
With the effort of the local fisherman, preservation has improved and monitoring activities are regularly held to protect sea turtles beach nests.
In his Turtle Sanctuary, Pelagio Paulino shows to visitors why he created this project and how he protects marine biodiversity. For example, he helps them understand the danger biodiversity encounters when they buy illegal handicraft made from turtles’ shells or when we throw plastic on the beach.
With his project, Pelagio Paulino diversified the experiences available in Mano Juan Island and created the main tourism activity of the island while making visitors more aware of critical sustainable issue and making a great effort in protecting the local marine biodiversity.
Today, his sanctuary is supported by the Dominican Republic Minsitry of Tourism, which is now exporting Pelagio Paulino ideas to other local marine species in danger. It is a great example of how individual projects can have a big echo and impact on local tourism policies.
Opportunities for Andros
|Sustainable issues||Great worldwide practices||
Opportunities for Andros Island
|Green energy supply||Faroe Island’s mix of different renewable energy sources to become totally free of fossil fuel power.||Investing in Andros Island optimum meteorological conditions (sun, wind, water) to source safer, healthier green energy.|
|Pollution, water accessibility, education||São Tomé and Príncipe Island replacement of plastic bottles for reusable plastic- free stainless steel bottle.||Reduce plastic imports and uses to the minimum by promoting greener alternatives to its inhabitant.|
|Transportation, pollution, tourism sights accessibility||New Zealand incorporation of non-motorized vehicles in its transportation plan.||Making places (tourism sights, attractions, schools and so on) accessible with non-motorized and green vehicles to promote sustainable transportation and healthy behaviors.|
|Linkage, local communities benefits||
Sandals Group’s Farmer Program
|Encourage private/public cooperation to upgrade, promote and activate sourcing of locally produces goods and services.|
|Education, local population empowerment||Tourism eLearning in Switzerland||Fight against social disparities and promote careers in tourism through ICTs and local empowerment.|
|Protect marine biodiversity, tourists education||Building a Turtle Sanctuary in Dominican Republic
|Encourage individual project that are beneficial to the community, and design experiences that are entertaining, educational, and respectful of the local biodiversity.|
A portion of this article’s research was carried out by the University of The Bahamas Spring 2018 Sustainable Tourism Class lead by Stuart Hanna in association with MOT Representatives in Andros. Stuart Hanna helped to contribute the groundwork that was used to compile this research, however he is not the author or contributor to this piece and claims no rights to it.
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